Today, Michael Hibbard has one restaurant open for business on Center Street, but by this summer he expects to have three.
Since last summer, Hibbard has been preparing to move his Gallo Coal Fire Kitchen from its home at 800 Center St. to the space at 402 Center St., which he's currently renovating. He had his hands full, so when the owner of the recently closed Center Cut steakhouse approached him to see if he had any interest in taking over the building, Hibbard wasn't ready to dive in just yet.
"The owner of the property had presented this idea to take it over," Hibbard said. "It was right around the time where we acquired the plaza at the corner of Fourth Street and Center Street to move the existing Gallo down there, so we kind of put it on the back burner."
But then, around Thanksgiving, he was again approached about taking over the building, located at 453 Center St. This time he decided to take a chance and go for it. The new restaurant will be known as Gather and will feature a range of American favorites, including "everything from steaks to burgers," Hibbard said.
The old Center Cut building has since undergone some minor renovations and received a fresh coat of paint. Hibbard said he's hoping to have the restaurant open by mid-February, saying that he's only waiting on the liquor license.
Hibbard's plans for the property at 402 Center St. will take a bit longer to come to fruition. Though some demolition work has already been done to remove portions of the pergola over the property, the new home of Gallo Coal Fire Kitchen is not expected to be ready to open until the summer.
The space is currently home to Sgt. Pepper's Hot Sauces and Brewed and Bottled, both of which Hibbard said will be moving to other Center Street locations. When the renovations are complete, the structure will house Gallo Coal Fire Kitchen, a quick-serve Gallo concept that will offer coffees, teas and sandwiches, and two commercial rental spaces.
At this time, there are no plans to fill the two rental spaces, that will come after the renovations have been completed, Hibbard said.
"There's two existing tenants in there right now and their last day is (Jan. 17)," Hibbard said. "They're going to be moving out of the plaza so now we can start our overall construction. But since we acquired the property, we've done some demolition on the outside where there were some pergolas and we did some interior demolition on two of the rental properties in the space."
When the original Gallo concept, which focuses on its coal fired pizzas and Italian cuisine, moves to its new building, it's former location will also be getting a new occupant.
Hibbard said he plans to open a Mexican restaurant at the existing 800 Center St. building. He said it will serve a combination of traditional Mexican dishes and more "Americanized" Mexican food as well.
With three restaurants on Center Street, Hibbard is aiming to serve a demographic which he said has been on the rise in Lewiston – young families. He said he feels all three locations will fulfill that goal, adding that while he intends for Gather to be a bit higher end, it won't have "out of the ballpark prices."
"A lot of the people that have grown up in that area, they're now coming back and raising a family," Hibbard said. "With the Gallo Coal Fire Kitchen concept, and with the new Gather and the Mexican concepts, that's really what we're going to hit with all three."